Finding your life's purpose is often a tumultuous process.
It's something Pearl Swinton, protagonist in Caroline Allen's Elemental Journey Series, experiences in the most recent installment, "Fire."
The book was published last month.
"Thematically, it's about the ego burning," Allen said. "'Fire' is everything you thought your life was about (being) destroyed."
During the novel, Pearl and her boyfriend backpack through Southeast Asia and eventually settle in London. During the journey, the journalist and travel writer is questioning what her life's purpose is while experiencing mystical visions.
"The visions are about the fact that we've all lived past and future lives," Allen explained. "So she'll meet someone and she'll have a vision of the past life of that someone, or the future life of that someone."
One such vision is of a boat boy in the Philippines named Raul.
"She gets a past life vision of him, of a little boy drowning in the ocean," Allen said. "The character that came out (of the vision) was so compelling."
She added that in some instances, the visions Pearl sees become characters in the novel.
Pearl does not fully comprehend the visions in "Fire."
"Pearl is just tapping into it. For this book, she doesn't understand it," Allen said. "In (the next book) there will be a lot more clarity."
Allen described the Elemental Journey series as "one protagonist, five books, a journey around the world in search of self and purpose amidst growing climate change and unrest."
"(It's) a progression that shows trying to find purpose," she said.
The series will consist of novels "Earth," "Air," "Fire," "Water" and "Ether." Allen is working on "Water."
"'Earth' is about being rooted in the place where you grew up. (In) 'Air' she flies to live abroad in Japan, and she's floating above the culture. It gives you perspective, but it's also hard because you don't know where your home is anymore," Allen said. "'Fire' is the burning off of all the conditioning of who you think you are. . . (In) 'Water,' she has no idea who she is. . . 'Ether' is turning and giving back."
Allen noted that Pearl "does not fit into any box."
"People try to put her in box, and she doesn't fit into any box," she said. "She throws herself into things. A fault she has is throwing herself into things too much, coming to
the edge and going over the edge."
Pearl is 13 at the start of "Earth," the first novel in the series. During "Fire," she is in her mid-20s.
"She's starting to see other people outside of herself more and (there's) less complete focus on herself," Allen said, discussing the character's evolution.
Prior to becoming a novelist and visual artist, Allen worked as a journalist for newspapers such as the Daily Yomiuri, the Financial Times and The Independent.
"The wonderful thing about it is you have to write a lot, and often. I worked for dailies and you have to write a lot of stories. That in itself makes you such a better writer," she said, discussing the influence of her journalism career on her fiction. "You get the tools of it down, and you can take information and tie it together. How it hurts is that (as a fiction writer), no one is telling you the subject matter. It's hard when you start to write fiction because it's coming from a completely different place. It's not external. It's internal."
Allen enjoys the process of writing fiction.
"With any artist and any art form, you enter it and you're just completely taken over by it," she said. "When it takes you over, you're quite surprised by what comes out. It's not a brain thing. It's a soul expression."
Read the book
Caroline Allen's novel "Fire" is available for purchase at www.amazon.com.
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